As we head into the festive season, our Telephone Advisory Service Team is starting to receive more calls from our clients – they’re asking our employment relations consultants and HR experts an array of questions – from public holidays during the Christmas period to paying staff during enforced closures and hiring casual employees. Here, we’ve addressed these topics.

1. What days are public holidays over the Christmas period?

Public holidays can be tricky. To simplify things, we’ve compiled all of the public holidays in Australia over the Christmas period into this table:

Public holiday Date Australian states & territories
Christmas Day Friday 25 December 2020 All
Boxing Day Saturday 26 December 2020 All except TAS, NT, & SA
Additional Public Holiday Monday 28 December 2020 All
New Year’s Day Friday 1 January 2021 All
Australia Day Tuesday 26 January 2021 All

In addition to the above-listed dates, Thursday 24 December 2020 (Christmas Eve) is declared a public holiday from 6PM until midnight in Queensland and from 7PM until midnight in the Northern Territory and South Australia only.

And, on Thursday 31 December 2020 (New Year’s Eve) from 7PM to midnight, is declared a public holiday in both the Northern Territory and South Australia only.

It is important that you know which penalty rates apply for work performed on a day that is declared a public holiday in accordance with the applicable Award or Enterprise Agreement. Check the applicable industrial instrument, or contact HR Assured, to see what penalty or other entitlement might be payable.

2. How do I pay my employees if my business is enforcing a shutdown?

Many businesses close during the quiet Christmas period with most Awards and Enterprise Agreements allowing employers to direct an employee to take a period of annual leave; subject to certain conditions. However, in the absence of an Award or Enterprise Agreement entitlement allowing an employer to direct employees to take a period of annual leave, employers will be unable to force an employee to take paid annual leave. Instead, employers will be required to seek an employee’s agreement to take a period of paid annual leave.

It’s important to remember that an employee cannot be required to take paid annual leave on a day that is declared a public holiday. Rather the public holiday is automatically treated as a paid absence with the employee receiving their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work on that day.

3. If I hire Christmas casuals, do I need to give them a written employment contract?

Christmas can be an extremely busy time of the year for some businesses, particularly for those in the retail sector. This seasonal increase in demand places pressure on these businesses to hire additional staff at this time of year.

There is nothing wrong with hiring additional staff to meet demand. However, it is important to understand that even casual employees can bring an unfair dismissal claim. To minimise the risk, you should have a written contract of employment for all employees, even Christmas casuals.

If you’re already an HR Assured client and have a question about the information in this article contact the team at HR Assured.

If your business has a workplace issue, and you need some advice, we’d like to offer you an opportunity to try our award-winning Telephone Advisory Service. Click here to arrange a no-obligation, complimentary chat with one of our employment experts.